Bharti, Vodafone, Idea may merge towers

Reuters | By, Mumbai
Oct 06, 2007 01:38 PM IST

Apart from operational efficiencies, the merger is aimed at getting a higher valuation for their passive infrastructure.

Mobile services firms Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone Essar Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd may merge their towers units to form a separate company, a paper said on Saturday.

HT Image
HT Image

The three companies together own more than 70,000 towers across the country, and apart from operational efficiencies, the merger is aimed at getting a higher valuation for their passive infrastructure, the paper said.

"The talks have been going on for some time ... the companies are yet to agree on the modalities of being joint venture partners in terms of the equity share (and) other operational issues," it cited a source close to the negotiations as saying.

The companies may hold equity in proportion to the number of towers they owned, with Bharti possibly taking a stake of 57 per cent in the new company, the paper said.

The decision would be a "natural progression" of an earlier move to share infrastructure, the paper said, citing sources in the dominant GSM market who confirmed that initial discussions between the companies had begun.

A spokesman for Bharti and a spokeswoman for Idea did not immediately return calls. A spokeswoman for Vodafone Essar said she had no comment.

Telecoms operators in India, the world's fastest-growing mobile market, are looking to share infrastructure to keep costs down amid fierce competition and a surge in low-income subscribers from rural areas.

Leader Bharti Airtel and Idea had earlier said they would spin off their mobile towers arms into separate units. Reliance Communications Ltd, the No. 2 mobile services firm, recently sold 5 per cent of its towers business for $345 million.

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